Regarding the Oct. 17 front-page article "McCain-Feingold Paved Way for 527s":

The McCain-Feingold law was never about reducing money in politics. Its goal was to reduce the corrupting influence of unlimited "soft money" contributions to the political parties, usually solicited by federal candidates and officeholders.

Corporations and labor unions had been banned from making political contributions for more than 50 years, and individual contributions had been capped since 1974. Because of the soft-money loophole that the Federal Election Commission created, however, nearly $500 million in soft money was contributed in 2000; double or triple that amount surely would have been raised this year if our law had not been enacted.

Ending the practice of the president, party leaders and members of Congress soliciting huge donations from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals improved the system. And, despite predictions to the contrary, the parties have thrived in the new hard-money world; they are on track to raise as much in limited donations from individuals in this cycle as they did in hard and soft money combined in 2000.

The Federal Election Commission's failure properly to regulate 527s under existing federal election law has allowed wealthy individuals to pour millions into this election. But that failure does not change the fact that McCain-Feingold succeeded in ending the corrupting practice of politicians asking for $100,000 or $500,000 checks.

JOHN McCAIN

U.S. Senator (R-Ariz.)

RUSS FEINGOLD

U.S. Senator (D-Wis.)

Washington